2012 was not my year. I’m writing it off as a re-building year, and crossing my fingers that 2013 will be better. I’ve never been a big fan of the New Year. It’s cold outside, nothing really changes, I’m never motivated to work out with 2 feet of snow outside my window, and everything just… stays the same. But this year, I’m embracing the new year. After what I’ve been calling my “Dark December,” I’m in desperate need of a fresh start. So, as the new year begins, I’m determined to make some changes. For me, my mood always improves once I tie on an apron, turn on the oven, and grab my trusty eggs, butter, sugar and flour. First of all, it gives me something to do. I’m a wallower, and if left to my own devices, I will never leave my bed. Or, if I do manage to make it out of bed, I’ll park myself on the couch with a bag of chips and cry during Humane Society commercials or any commercial or TV program featuring senior citizens.
Dark December was mostly wallowing. There was a lot of fast food. There was a lot bad realty TV. There were a lot of tears. Luckily, I have amazing friends and family who knew the right time to stop by with ice cream, tissues, tabloid magazines and a pound of bacon. When I wasn’t making a permanent imprint in my couch or drowning in a pint of ice cream, I was baking away my feelings.
First, it keeps me busy. It might take me a while to force myself to do something, but once I can motivate myself to get into the kitchen, game on. Just going through the motions of measuring, pouring and mixing relaxes me and calms me down. Second, and most important, I get to create something delicious. I can take all that negativity and turn it into something that tastes good and makes people happy.
For Christmas this year, I received the Joy the Baker cookbook. I’ve been following Joy’s blog for a couple of years now, and adore it. I read the cookbook cover to cover like a novel as soon as I got it. My favorite part of course is the comfort food section. Although I have never met Joy, I’m pretty sure we would be best friends if ever given the chance. I’m pretty sure Joy would understand my Dark December – she would partake in some good old-fashioned man bashing with me, pat me on the shoulder, and then she’d tell me to snap out of it and we’d get in the kitchen and make some delicious, sugary concoction. Since this friendship exists only in my head, I had to do the baking part by myself. But with Joy’s comfort food section basically memorized, I was well prepared.
I started with bacon peanut butter cookies. I was a little skeptical about them – I’ve had bacon cookies before that just… weren’t great. As much as I love bacon, you can’t just throw it in a dessert and expect it to magically make it delicious. Bacon does that to many dishes, but desserts are a little trickier. You have to make sure the flavors actually go together and that you aren’t just tasting a big hunk of bacon stuck inside your chocolate cupcake. These cookies, however, are magic. Everything works together and the end result is pure happiness.
I’ve made these cookies 4 times in the last 3 weeks. It might be overkill, but it’s helped lift me out of my dark days and into the new year. Although baking my feelings is not a new concept for me, I’ve been doing it for a while now, I haven’t been doing it consistently. So, as 2013 begins, I’ve resolved to bake my way through it. A new recipe every week to go with what I’m sure will be a long roller coaster of emotions.
In 2012, my heart was broken. In 2013, with the help of my pantry, I’m going to repair it.
Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies from Joy the Baker as made by me:
10 pieces of bacon
1 1/2 cups natural creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cup plus an additional 1/2 cup of white sugar
3 teaspoons molasses
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
sprinkle of nutmeg (I just gave it a good shake – Joy’s recipe calls for fresh, which I’m sure would be better if you have it)
3/4 cup roasted, salted peanut halves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place bacon on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake bacon until nice and crisp, about 15 minutes. While Bacon is in the oven, get started on your other ingredients. Cream together the peanut butter, 1 1/2 cup sugar, and the molasses for about 3 minutes. Once combined, add the eggs, baking soda, and nutmeg. Mix on medium for about 2 more minutes.
Once the bacon is done, crumble or chop it into small pieces. Fold the bacon and the peanuts into your mixture with a wooden spoon. Place the other 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Roll the dough into large balls and roll in the sugar. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Flatten a little with a fork.
Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.